7 Australia Road Trip: Victorian Road Movie
After the long drive from Eden - a road trip stopover in Stratford on the Avon
A Shakespearean Experience
The small town with the English name sits on a great plain that spreads out beyond the spine of mountains that runs down the length of the east coast. We arrived in the late afternoon, after a journey through sweltering heat over a seemingly endless, winding slash of asphalt. The western edge of the town is delineated by a drought-stricken river and it is here, next to the road bridge, that we have pitched our camp for the night. As the sun sets and darkness descends, the sounds of rural Australia filter through the angaphoras and wattle trees that line the sandy banks of the river. Song birds see out the daylight in competition with rozellas and other parrots. With darkness comes the insect sounds - the shrill, piercing buzz of cicadas, the steady click of crickets, the bass beat of frogs and the annoying hum of mosquitos, uniting to form a primeval wall of sound, “bush muzak.” Out on the highway, cattle trucks rumble as they gear down on the edge of town and anonymous travellers grind out the miles enroute to their private destinations. Urban legend has it that only truckers and mentalists travel at night in Australia. Our little campsite on the edge of this gothic town feels like an oasis of security against the enormous, dark continent that surrounds us.
It’s funny how quickly you become a star in your own road movie when you’re travelling. For us, each day is a combination of certainty and the unknown. The certainty lies in the knowledge that the next day will be an unknown. We have our little campervan and the bits and pieces that make it home, and we have each other; these things are certain. What we will be doing, where we are going and where we will be staying each evening are rather more uncertain. Nevertheless, there is a rhythm to life on the road that is mostly regular and in many ways mundane. The setting up of camp, the relaxing period after a long drive with a beer or a cup of tea; the necessary ritual of cooking; then the special time, the primitive time, where the light of our hurricane lamp and the glow of a mosquito coil, become our television and the night birds, possums and bush music our neighbours.
We are feeling like this after only six days on the road. What will it feel like after 300? One thing is for certain – travelling like this, like gypsies, is a life changing experience where every day can throw up a different chain of events.
A Night on the Proms
One Australia's must-visit destinations - A National Parl situated on a peninsula surrounded by the Great Southern Ocean
On to the Prom
We leave the town, Stratford-on-the-Avon, as early as we can in the morning and head south. We decide to leave Melbourne alone for a couple more days and to follow the coast road around from Sale to Wilson’s Promontory. The landscape gradually changes as we chew up the kilometres. The wide, flat plains, dotted with homesteads and cattle become rolling green hills; low mountains rise up out of the sea ahead of us. As we drive the last 30 km along the isthmus that joins Wilson’s Promontory with the mainland, a huge storm looms out to sea, in the southwest. We stop at the entrance to the National Park and are told by the girl in the kiosk that the storm heading toward the prom is possibly “the likes of which we have never seen before!” That must be a very bad storm for them to say that!
Oooh... big storm :-)
The rangers are advising potential campers to think twice about staying in the Park and offer us the opportunity to turn around. Now I reckon a campervan is fair protection from an average storm but hail stones and strong wind could be a problem. No matter, we've no where else to go so we decide to risk it, pay our fee, and head into the spectacular peninsular. The fact is, if a storm of this projected magnitude hits it wont matter where we are – so we might as well check it out from the Prom. Towering purple thunderheads mass on the horizon and the wind freshens as we drive along the scenic access road. After 30 kilometres we arrive at Tidal River, the main administrative and camping area in the park. The rangers here also suck their teeth and shake their heads at the mere thought of the terrible storm that is approaching. We are getting a bit anxious now, so set about finding the perfect, storm resistant campsite.
Tidal River possesses the most exquisite coastal campground. 480 pitches set amidst a low forest of coastal tea trees, banksias, acacias and sheoaks, adjacent to a glorious golden strand with turquoise waters and rolling surf, all overlooked by fire ravaged Oberon Mountain. We tentatively park in a well-protected glade of sturdy trees just as the first powerful gusts of wind strike. A nearby gazebo-style tent is ripped from it’s stakes and tumbles into the bushes. The owners aren’t about so we manage to rescue and dismantled the structure and tie it to a tree; then the wind stops. In an instant, the dark, glowering clouds blow past the campground and the sun floods down on us in all its glory. So much for the Storm of the Century.
In the warmth of a perfect spring afternoon, we walk the 4km round trip over the mountain to the magnificent quartz sands of Squeaky beach, with its milky blue waters, still churned violently by the swells of the southern seas.
Three hours later we arrive back at our campsite, only to see another great storm front bearing down on us. This is the Big One then, we are about to witness the ferocity of a Bass Strait storm after all. The huge purple clouds swirl and grumble overhead, then disappear. There is to be no storm tonight. Now, as I sit under our tarp, writing these words I can only wonder at the uncertainty of nature, and life on the road.
Find out a bit about Australia's second biggest, and some say, most European, city. Melbourne here we come...
- 8 Australian Road Trip: A Melbourne Revelation
Melbourne is Australia's second biggest city and is locked in a continual battle with Sydney to claim the title of Australia's Best City. Which city is best? Or are they both fantastic... read on to find out.